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Sound support for brain injury survivors

Last Modified: March 30, 2023

Family Medicine

brain injury

In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month, we wanted to take a moment to highlight one particularly valuable resource for this population–peer support groups. Kristin Smith, occupational therapist, Home Health Therapy, shares the details of Parkview’s Brain Injury Support Group and encourages patients and their loved ones to join in the healing.

Brain injury overview

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, the consequences of a brain injury are unpredictable. It affects who we are, the way we think, act and feel, and it can change everything about a person in seconds. However, the most important things to remember are:

  • A person with a brain injury is a person first.
  • No two brain injuries are the same.
  • The effects of a brain injury are complex and vary greatly from person to person.
  • The effects of a brain injury depend on factors such as cause, location and severity.

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative or due to birth trauma. This type of brain injury occurs because of trauma or insult to the brain after birth. There are two types of acquired brain injuries: traumatic and non-traumatic.

  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a change in brain function caused by an external force. The most common causes include falls, car accidents, gunshots, workplace injuries, military blast injuries or child abuse.
  • Non-traumatic brain injury (NTBI) causes damage to the brain due to internal factors such as a lack of oxygen, toxin exposure, etc. Some common causes can include near-drowning, stroke, seizures, aneurysm, brain tumors, infectious disease (i.e., meningitis) or a lack of oxygen to the brain (i.e., heart attack).

Challenges brain injury patients often face 

Many people who have suffered an ABI can experience physical deficits like paralysis on one side of their bodies or coordination and muscle tone issues, significantly impacting their mobility and ability to care for themselves or move within their environment. However, this isn’t true for all. It greatly depends on the person and their type of ABI. For example, if you come to our brain injury support group, most individuals walk in looking perfectly healthy. You wouldn't know they’d had an ABI until they spoke.

Additionally, individuals with an ABI often consider themselves the walking wounded because others don't truly understand their condition’s emotional and cognitive implications since they are often unseen. They may have healed outwardly but continue to deal with long-term effects such as deficits in language, memory, vision, attention, organization, planning, problem-solving, emotional and behavioral regulation, and more.

Parkview’s Brain Injury Support Group

This support group is for everyone. New patients, survivors, caregivers, spouses, children, family, friends, support systems, loved ones, professionals and students are welcome. It is a friendly, judgment-free zone where you can be yourself. We are a community filled with people who understand and accept you and are ready to offer our assistance. We also encourage anyone involved in a person's life or care to join our meetings because, more often than not, that is where the struggle lies. They are their advocate and biggest helper or, in some cases, their greatest obstacle because they don't understand the injury and expect more of their loved one. We want to help bridge that gap by offering encouragement, support and hope.

The Parkview difference

Our support group is unique in that we like to run it in three different ways:

  • Group discussion – This is just as it sounds. We sit around a table and discuss everything and anything. We are here to talk about whatever people are comfortable sharing. Mostly, it's a lot of problem-solving for everyday challenges, strategy and resource sharing, and conversations about recent struggles, triumphs and personal experiences. Most of the time, this centers around new members because they seek information and guidance from our older members. Plus, the established members love to share what they can to help educate and support those just starting out on their journey. It gives them so much purpose and meaning.
  • Speaker presentations – Throughout the year, we like to schedule speakers from the community who can provide services to individuals with brain injuries, from yoga therapists and vocational rehabilitation specialists to everything else in between. We try to bring people of all backgrounds and specialties to help answer questions and assist with access to a variety of resources.
  • Social events and activities – We also enjoy hosting events. Typically, we have a picnic every summer and a holiday party every winter. It's so much fun but also provides a social connection outside the meeting room. It allows us all to gather on a more informal basis to have fun and not worry about their condition.

Benefits of a brain injury support group

We always say that a brain injury happens to the whole family. A brain injury support group gives those suffering from an ABI (and their loved ones) the acceptance and support they desire and need. It shows them that they are not alone and offers insight into how they can better themselves. For example, new members see survivors who are three months, six months, or even a year post-injury, which gives them hope for the future. Many individuals and families also feel isolated. They sometimes lose their friends, spouses, and other connections, but a support group provides them with a new social circle filled with others who understand their situation.

Final thoughts

If you're interested in this support group, or any group for that matter, please don't wait. We want you to come as early as possible in your diagnosis, recovery and journey, so we can provide you with the support and guidance you need.

If you or a loved one have an ABI or are dealing with a neurological condition, you may benefit from Parkview’s Brain Injury Support Group. If interested, please join us on the first Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in conference rooms A, B and C at Parkview Regional Medical Center. For more information, contact group facilitator Kristin Smith at 260-452-4943 or

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